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Dynamic Chiropractic – July 15, 1994, Vol. 12, Issue 15

Demise of Scholarly Values and the Struggle for Survival

By Robert Falco, DC
The chiropractic schools and our bureaucratic leaders sound like beleaguered generals about to lead their witless troops right into an ambush. They have deluded themselves, along with their callow retinue of students, into believing political medicine (and to a lesser degree government and the insurance industry), are the culprits responsible for our failed attempts to establish clinical legitimacy and improve our social status. Over the years, blaming these nebulous institutions provided chiropractors with a false sense of reassurance that they were not responsible for their profession's shortcomings. This mechanism was quite effective since it distracted not only chiropractors but the scientific community as well from focusing on chiropractic's deficiencies: until now, that is.

Unfortunately they did not stop there. They are likewise critical of the public for their presumed lack of knowledge about chiropractic. Once again these policy makers have deceived the collective mind of the profession into believing that part of chiropractic's problem is also public relations. Mired in yet another misconception, the profession continues to engage in one failed public education initiative after another. Since our scope of practice has been defined by the public's willingness to accept treatment for specific types of musculoskeletal complaints, any message to the contrary will surely be rejected by them. So far, public education initiatives have only contributed to a more muddle perception of chiropractic. Most importantly, we must first begin with educating the chiropractor, not the public.

Sadly, there will be a continual erosion of the chiropractic profession, punctuated by failed attempts at initiating progress, until our chiropractic schools acquire the perspicacity to acknowledge their deficiencies. The cause of our problem is deeply entrenched in deficiencies that are obvious to intuitive thinkers. Yet the collective mind of the profession has been deluded into believing these deficiencies are just an illusion of political medicine's propaganda or some other nebulous propaganda scheme.

Although some pundits have quite accurately identified our lack of a coherent and credible scope of practice as the single most damaging element, I believe most of chiropractic's problems have a more fundamental source. By far the genesis of most, if not all of our problems, stem from chiropractic's most essential resource -- the student.

Unfortunately, most chiropractic students are less academically talented than their professional counterparts and typically lack the critical thinking skills necessary for scholarly debate. Once exposed to the traditional concepts of chiropractic principles, these naive students succumb to the single purpose goal of the school, that is, to "preserve the chiropractic identity." Their didactic studies and clinical training imbue them with idealistic concepts that only a blasphemous student would dare challenge. At this point, the typical chiropractic student has been indoctrinated into an illusive social and clinical reality that exceeds the realm of zealots, and at some schools approaches that of cultism.

Pragmatically, the social reality of health care in this country provides medicine with a degree of social power and legitimacy that surpasses what is now available to chiropractors. It is unlikely that the chiropractic profession could weaken the legitimacy and status that the medical profession has usurped. On the contrary, attacking medicine will only discredit chiropractic since it would present the profession in a defensive and inferior posture. Chiropractors clearly sense this and react with feelings of inferiority and insecurity that become obvious once engaged in clinical practice. Mired in hostility and insecurity, the collective mind of chiropractic continues its illusive battle against these nebulous forces. Meanwhile the cancer metastasizes.

These issues have been identified by non-DC pundits before. Joseph Keating, PhD, has invoked the profession to "inculcate scholarly values," and "make unsubstantiated claims socially unacceptable." It is unlikely that practicing chiropractors have the capacity to make such fundamental changes, given the aforementioned account. However, if the chiropractic institutions selected better qualified and academically talented students and faculty, critical thinking could occur naturally, and dogma would no longer prevail. Until the chiropractic schools acknowledge their deficiencies, the chiropractic profession will continue its illusive battle against nebulous forces.

If diagnosis precedes cure, then we can not begin to help ourselves until we become sensitively conscious of the problem.

Robert Falco, DC
Weehawken, New Jersey

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